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Police planning to bolster enforcement on freeways

Speeders, tailgaters, and lane-weavers should expect increased enforcement attention on Toledo-area freeways next year, a city police official said yesterday.

Lt. Louis Borucki, commander of the Toledo police department's traffic section, said he hopes to use a chunk of a $60,000 state “directed enforcement” grant the city usually gets to fund overtime patrols along the interstates, especially I-75 between Bancroft Street and I-475 and near the I-280 junction.

But if Toledo doesn't get such a grant next year, he said, patrolling the freeways would be emphasized as part of regular enforcement activities.

The campaign's purpose, the lieutenant said, will be to try to cut down on the number of truck accidents on Toledo's freeway network.

He described the campaign during a car-truck safety seminar sponsored yesterday by the Toledo Metropolitan Area Conference of Governments.

Gwen Neundorfer, the traffic safety coordinator with the Lucas County educational service center, said her agency plans to coordinate a truck safety public-awareness campaign next year, too. Along with billboards and public service advertisements, the county agency plans to arrange for a display truck to visit local high schools so budding drivers can see how trucks operate and where a trucker's blind spots are.

Both programs are intended to address a recent Ohio Department of Public Safety analysis that cited Lucas County as having the state's worst truck accident problem.

Sgt. Kevin Thomas, of the Ohio Highway Patrol's Walbridge post, said the poor ranking “wasn't really a surprise” for him, since the Toledo area has heavy truck traffic. And speeding, tailgating, and failure to yield are the three leading causes of truck accidents, he said.

Trucking officials at the seminar said a combination of heavy truck traffic, fed by local manufacturing, the Port of Toledo, and Toledo's position as a transportation crossroad, means a high proportion of trucks on roads that weren't designed to handle current traffic volumes.

“The roads have always been a problem coming through this town as a trucker,” said Wally Gedeon, owner of locally based OMI Transportation.

“When these expressways were built, we never envisioned the [traffic] volume we have now,” Lieutenant Borucki agreed.

Truck drivers won't be the only drivers targeted in the freeway enforcement effort, the lieutenant said. While speeding and tailgating trucks are part of the problem, he said, motorists who follow trucks too closely or cut in front of them in traffic are equally to blame for crashes.

“People don't realize they need to give trucks more room,” Lieutenant Borucki said.

And Ms. Neundorfer said “how to share the road with heavy trucks” also will be a main thrust of the educational program.

“The general public needs to do its part,” she said.

Last month ODOT responded to a rash of truck crashes on I-75 between I-475 and Bancroft by installing chevron-style arrow signs to call extra attention to sharp curves in that stretch, and by repaving the northbound lanes at Detroit Avenue with a special high-friction, extra-drainage pavement.

Both sides of I-75 between Detroit Avenue and I-475 have solid stripes between the lanes to forbid lane changes. The solid stripes have prompted motorist complaints that there is insufficient room for traffic traveling between Detroit Avenue and I-475 to change lanes for their exits, but Lieutenant Borucki disagreed.

“You might have to slow down to change lanes, but people don't always realize that's an option,” he said. “It seems like everybody speeds up to change lanes.”

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